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NERDS Sponsors Rube Goldberg Machine Contest … For Nerds


There’s something endlessly fascinating about Rube Goldberg machines, those insane chain-reaction contraptions that accomplish simple tasks in hilariously over-complicated ways, using everyday objects.

While not an official Olympic sport, the Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge is like an Olympic sport for smart people. For this year’s Challenge, the competitors had to create a complex machine with the sole purpose of pouring some NERD candies out of a box. From the field of 140 talented competitors the judges chose winners for different age groups and a Family Category.

The winning submission in that division can be seen in the video below, and shows how a chef adds NERDS to a crepe pancake. The machine takes over two minutes to pour the Nerds, and does so in the same time it takes the chef to cook a crepe.

The contest results, which requires participants to “Shake & Pour a Box of NERDS candy,” were featured via a live press conference on Twitch over the weekend. Nerds sponsored more than 100 students/family groups to support the program which builds STEM and STEAM skills. The promotional partnership was brokered by Rube Goldberg’s exclusive licensing agency Brand Central.

“We feel grateful for such a special opportunity to bring this contest to life with NERDS,” said Jennifer George, the Legacy Director of Rube Goldberg, Inc., the not-for-profit organization that bears her grandfather’s name. “During such a challenging time for students, we are grateful to work with NERDS on a happy, colorful, joyous task that put a smile on everyone’s face.”

The term Rube Goldberg Machine comes from the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist best known for his comical chain reaction “invention cartoons,” which were published in the weekly comics in hundreds of newspapers.

The overwhelming popularity of these drawings made him and his cartoons a cultural icon, an adjective in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and a term which is invoked daily in American media and by thousands of individuals. The concept behind all Rube Goldberg invention cartoons—complicated and funny ways to accomplish simple tasks—is responded to universally.

Now in their 33rd year, the Rube Goldberg Machine contests, which started as a small event in 1988, are an annual nationwide competition, welcoming teams from around the U.S. to celebrate his legacy. In addition to the annual competitions, Rube Goldberg, Inc.—a not-for-profit whose focus is on STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)—offers traveling museum exhibitions, books, licensing, merchandising, customized education curriculum, and entertainment opportunities, which continue to grow and enhance the brand.

The sponsor for the contest is Ferrara, a major player in the North American confections and sweet snacking categories, with 6,000 employees and a range of popular brands, including NERDS, SweeTARTS, Red Hots and more.

More than 140 teams entered the virtual competition with 27 team winners selected across its four categories: Division Apprentice (ages 8-11), Division I (ages 11-14), Division II (ages 14-18) and a Family Division. The winners come from U.S. cities and towns coast-to-coast. Below you can see a list of the first place and Legacy Award winners, complete with links to the videos for their creations.


First Place

Physics Works, Shillington, PA. Division I,

The NERD Degree, Chatfield, MN, Division II,

Spring Valley Springboks, Farmington, PA, Family,

Legacy Award

STEAM Train, Santa Barbara, CA, Division I,

Shenandoah Zeps, Sarahsville, OH, Division II,

Happy Family, Palo Alto, CA, Family,

LKE LIONS Gifted Education, Overland Park, KS, Apprentice,

Additional winners as well as the winning videos can also be viewed at and on


As always, participants were challenged to use readily available, found materials to give each machine a story and sense of humor, with the final step of shaking and pouring a box of NERDS. Eligible submissions were judged based on eight factors: 

  1. Does it work?
  2. Can we see it work—especially the last step. 
  3. Did the team use a variety of simple machines in their transfers of energy? 
  4. Did the machine have a narrative or a story and was that theme carried out in the machine? 
  5. Creative use of household and/or everyday objects (i.e.,: not just a series of marble or domino runs). 
  6. Were there any unique transfers of energy or something in the machine that surprised the viewer? 
  7. Did the theme, story-telling, or the machine run make us laugh?
  8. And at the end of the day, how Rube is the machine? (Legacy Award)

Parents are encouraged to use as a resource to help them provide educational, project-based learning activities for their children at home.



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